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Articles Posted in Products Liability

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Mel Gibson was born in Peekskill, New York.  But somehow he got his first big acting gig (in the movie Mad Max, his break-through role)  in Australia in 1978 at age 22. But why was this Peekskill, New York-born US citizen in Australia? Because his parents decided to emigrate there when he was 12 in 1968. But why did his parents decided to emigrate there? Because his father’s New York personal injury lawyer obtained a $145,000 settlement for him for work-related injuries.  This gave Mel Gibson’s father the money to move to Australia, where his family was originally from.

If Mel Gibson’s father’s personal injury lawyer had not gotten Mel Gibson’s father a $145,000 settlement, Mel Gibson would never have ended up in Australia, where his acting talent was discovered.

So as you can clearly see, a New York personal injury lawyer (the one who represented Mel Gibson’s father) is responsible for the meteoric rise to stardom of actor Mel Gibson.  Thus, every time you watch movies such as Mad Max, Lethal Weapon and Braveheart, you should thank a personal injury attorney!

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As a New York personal injury lawyer (serving mostly the Syracuse and Central New York areas), I have pretty strong opinions about so-called “tort reform” (which we personal injury lawyers call “tort deform”):  I’m against it. Generally, tort reform is just a power-play by big business, the chamber of commerce and insurance companies to get a free pass to act negligently and injure people without having to pay the price.  The “price” of their negligence is shifted to the people who can least afford it:  Their injured victims.

But I agree partially with the corporate/insurance lobby’s newest call to arms:   They want immunity from coronavirus tort lawsuits for businesses that open up to the public.  I agree that restaurants, gyms, and retail stores should get some kind of immunity. Total immunity, no, but rather “qualified” immunity.  I’ll explain what I mean further down.

But first, why would a New York personal injury lawyer like me be in favor of a form of personal injury lawsuit protection for certain businesses?  Because I want America to get back on its feet. This damn virus has slammed with particular vigor at our retailers and restaurants.  Some will never reopen.  Those that will are going to need some help.   Our restaurants and retail stores are like a boxer who has been felled by a near knockout punch.  We need to allow him to get back up on his feet before we can engage him in more fighting.  Otherwise, we could kill him. (For a contrary view, read here).

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Remember those old cartoons with exploding cigars?  Pretty funny in a cartoon.  Not so funny in real life.

Today’s real-life exploding “smokes” are not the old-fashioned trick cigars, but rather the hip x-generation electronic cigarettes (a/k/a vaping devices).  They may be “cool”, but when they explode in your face they are a little too hot for comfort.

And that’s why e-cigarette manufacturers are facing dozens of personal injury lawsuits around the country from people who were injured by their exploding lithium-ion batteries.

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Meet the new big bad guy in town:  The prescription drug industry. Let’s just call them “Big Pharma”.  They are stepping into the shoes of the previous big bad guy:  Big Tobacco. In fact, Big Pharma has used the Big Tobacco playbook to rake in billions of dollars in profits off the backs of addicted “customers” they hooked on their products through cunning advertising and lobbying schemes.

The product in question?  Opioids.  Opioids are the new Tobacco, only worse.  Opioids include prescription painkillers like oxycodone, synthetics like fentanyl, and opium derivatives like heroin.  Using Big Tobacco’s old tricks, plus some new ones of their own, opioid manufacturers have created a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction.

But let’s go back a bit.  Once upon a time doctors were reluctant to treat chronic pain with opioids.  Opioid prescriptions were for last-stage cancer pain management and short-term pain control, for example, for patients suffering temporary post-operative pain. Prescribing such addictive medicine for chronic, long-term pain was just not done.  The risk of creating addicts was simply unacceptable.

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A delicious home made salsa pico de gallo with tomato, red onion, lime, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper.

People often ask me, “Mike, what kinds of NY personal injury cases do you take”?  My answer is simple:  Cases I can win.  I don’t mind if they are tough to win, but at least they must be winnable.  I want to help my clients, and taking an unwinnable case does the client no favor.  Tough for me to get paid on unwinnable cases, too, since I operate almost exclusively on a contingency fee basis.

Funny that no one ever asks me what kind of cases I don’t take.  Glad you asked.  I just read about a case that is the poster child for a case I would not take:  A Texas entrepreneur, Henry Riojas, recently sued a tortilla manufacturer claiming bad tortilla chips caused him to have a stroke.

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This summer, a 28 year-old man was driving along Owasco Street in Auburn, New York when, for no apparent reason, he drove off the road and smashed into a tree.  When the police arrived on the scene and interviewed him, they learned what had caused the crash.  Was he talking on his cell phone?   Nope.  Texting?  Guess again.  Answer:  He was playing “Pokemon Go”.  Completely immersed in the game, he forgot he was driving a car and crashed into the tree.

For those of you who don’t know about Pokémon Go, it is a HUGELY popular game among Millennials played in “virtual reality” on a smart phone.  The game allows its users to travel around looking for “Pokémons” (the name in Japanese means “pocket monsters”), capture them, and then use them to conquer Pokémon “Gyms” (arenas). Players hatch Pokémon “eggs” by walking while playing.  Players need to go near “Pokéstops”, which are landmarks where they can pick up things to advance in the game.

The car accident made national news and was a wake up call to local police regarding the dangers of the new “hit” game (pun intended). In the wake of the crash, Auburn police offered the following advice to Pokemon Go players:

donald trumpIn the TV smash hit “The Apprentice”, Donald Trump famously trumpets the words “you’re fired” when dismissing a contestant for failing to live up to his high job performance expectations.

Well, Trump isn’t the only one. Honda yesterday uttered those same words to Takata, the Japanese maker of the infamous defective shrapnel-shooting airbags.

Maybe it was “you’re fired” or maybe “Sayonara”.  But by any measure, Takata had a bad day yesterday. Longtime customer Honda dumped the company right after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) slapped Takata with a $70 million penalty for failing to promptly disclose the dangerous defects in its airbags.

juryOur jury system is in trouble, big trouble, and that’s no small matter.  It’s a Constitutional matter.  The right to a civil jury trial is enshrined in our Constitution’s Seventh Amendment as part of the Bill of Rights.

But that right is under siege, as explained in a recent series of New York Times articles. Who is assaulting this important right? Corporate America.  Corporations are tucking away arbitration clauses into the contracts their customers and employees are routinely required to sign. These arbitration clauses state something like this: “The company may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration”. With these simple words, corporations are depriving millions of Americans to their Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial.

Examples abound.  Do you have a credit card, a cell phone, or internet service? Then you have given up your right to a jury trial in any dispute with those companies.  In the fine print of your service contract lies a hidden a requirement that you “arbitrate” any disputes at a forum pre-selected by the corporation. The same is true in many employment contracts you might sign. Think your boss has discriminated against you? No jury.  No Court.  Arbitration.

20130402_151224Duck_tour_londonThe photo on left is of my then 16 year-old son and me a few years ago as we were about to board the Duck Boat for a tour of Boston and its harbor. The “Duck Boat” – for those that don’t know — is a six-wheeled amphibious vehicle originally used as U.S. military landing craft during World War II, but later adapted for tourists in cities with a harbor, river or lake such as Boston, London, Philadelphia and Washington.

It was a cool ride!  We drove around B-Town, then drove right into the Harbor and kept going.  The tour guide — Duck Dude —  joked all the way through the tour while sharing useful and sometimes not-so-useful but sure-as-hell entertaining information.

But there is sad news this week for Duck Boat lovers. A Seattle Duck Boat crashed into a charter bus full of college kids. Terrible accident sending 50 people to the hospital.

treadmill accident.jpgLast week, Sheryl Sandburg’s (Facebook’s second-in-command) suffered a big loss. Her husband, David Goldberg, died after cracking open his head in a fall off a treadmill. Dave Goldberg was a Silicon Valley giant in his own right, too (digital-music entrepreneur, Yahoo executive). You can read about him here.

But I am not blogging about Mr. Goldberg or his famous wife. Instead, I am blogging about the cause of his death: A treadmill.

Treadmills are the most popular piece of exercise equipment today. Go to any Y or health club and you will see row upon row of them. More than 50 million Americans use them. I am one of them.

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